Why is it that within our lifetimes we have seen the western world, describing itself as Judeo Christian? The phrase Judeo Christian seems to have developed in America around the time of the Second World War. It appears to be a way of neutralising or even excusing 2000 years of anti-Semitism. The phrase Abrahamic religion, in a similar way, is used to incorporate Islam. It appears understandable and praiseworthy in its intent, but it obscures our distinct character and our history.
In this weeks’ Sedra the people of Moab thought we were too populous and describe themselves as being disgusted with us. Why? But the clue is contained within in Balaam’s first blessing.
It is a nation that will dwell alone and will not be reckoned among the nations.
It is a strange blessing; it recognises that we have a separate destiny. But the blessing also carried the curse that we were always to be “the other”. Over the years, despite losing land, power and rights, we held on to our identity.
But in Balaams’ second blessing we read
מַה־טֹּ֥בוּ אֹֽהָלֶ֖יךָ יַֽעֲקֹ֑ב מִשְׁכְּנֹתֶ֖יךָ יִשְׂרָאֵֽל How goodly are your tents, O Jacob, your dwelling places, O Israel!
And those are the words with which we open each day’s prayer.
We need to have faith in our own blessings: They do not need validation by others.